Bittersweet Seasonal Changes, and how Traditional Chinese Medicine can Help

(October 2010)


AutumnAs the leaves continue to change color and fall, we know that Mother Nature is soon to thrust us once again into the cold, brisk air of a Chicago winter and we must prepare ourselves - both physically and mentally. Acknowledging and appreciating the changing season allows us to take the necessary steps to enable our body's defenses to be at their best. Acupuncture and Chinese herbal medicine can do wonders for all types of healing and prevention at this time of year. Correct diagnosis and specific needle placement can build Wei Qi (the body's defense system), protect against common cold susceptibility, ward off internal and external dryness by nourishing yin -- our body's natural moisture-- and create emotional strength and balance so we can lift and handle life stressors with more ease.


According to traditional Chinese medicine, our focus at this time of year should be on boosting the immune system while letting go of emotional heaviness that may be dragging us down. We are shifting from the active yang energy of summer to the more passive and reflective yin energy which invites reflection, stillness and inner focus. The bittersweet dichotomy of letting go and focusing inward moves us to a more balanced, healthful state.


This transitional time is associated with rising winds and energies of the lungs, skin, and large intestine. By paying special attention to these organs and corresponding energies we can enhance our body's defense system and prevent some of the common ailments associated with the coming winter.


The first signs of a common cold sickness often occurs in the lungs. Dryness, cough, stuffy nose, stiff neck and sore throats are indications that our defense system or 'Wei Qi' is compromised. Protecting our lungs, and keeping the lung energy strong and healthy by practicing breathing exercises can help us defend our bodies at the entry point of winter complaints.


Our bodies are particularly susceptible to wind at this time. The 'wind gate' to our bodies lies at the back of our heads, in the occipital area, and needs protection. Wearing scarves and hats during this time of year and through the cold winter months provides simple protection against gusty winds and cold entering our body's most delicate area.


Emotionally, Autumn is associated with grief and sadness. It is important at this time to let go of emotional wounds and find closure to keep diseases from settling into our bodies.


The large intestine, also a focus at this time of year, plays a key role in ridding our bodies of toxins. Environmental dryness, often occurring as the weather gets colder, can affect our internal organs and disrupt the ease and flow of our bowels. Also, emotional blockages can create clenching and holding in patterns that directly influence our body's healthy rhythm. Be cautious that constipation or disruption in digestion may become worse this time of year.


Warm, moistening foods and Chinese herbals keep our immune systems strong and support healthy lung and large intestine functions. Foods and drinks that are most appropriate and include: warm soups/stews with potatoes, squash, pumpkin, leeks, kale and carrots; baked fruits such as apples, pears or cranberries; warm spices like fresh ginger and tea beverages with honey.


The coming cold weather encourages us to move inward and enjoy more intimate, reflective moments. We find solace in the stillness of crackling fires, nourishing warm beverages and quiet conversations. And if you do choose to step out to enjoy the brisk winter air, remember to grab your scarf and an acupuncture treatment along the way!


Call today to schedule with Michelle Angel, L.Ac. MSOM, specialist in Chinese Medicine, Nutrition and Acupunture. You can also check out our seasonal tea of the month offering at ALMA, our brand new health and wellness shop, or at


"Inspire me with love for my art and for thy creatures. In the sufferer let me see only the human being."
- Moses Maimonides, The Physician's Oath